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My to-do list for the day before my 1st kyu exam. I am also publishing my first book today: "A Bowl of Love — How to Make a Big Green Dojo Potluck Salad". I'd better get busy checking these things off!
I have 13 training days left before my 1st kyu exam on March 9th.
It's been a very difficult week for me, personally, quite outside of my comfort zone. But I've been learning to deal with conflict in a way that benefits everyone. And isn't that the whole point after all?
I've been training really hard, with a lot of focus, and things are starting to come together. I'm seeing more patterns, groupings, and relationships, rather than dozens of separate techniques. And I'm starting to find some new subtleties and details. It still seems like there's a long way to go, but I'm basically feeling on track.
There's quite a large group of us all training for exams on the same day - from 1st to 6th kyu. We've all been supporting each other and training together, which has been a fantastic experience. We've also had a great deal of help from our very generous yudansha, who have spent hours with us refining techniques, clearing up confusion, and polishing the rough spots. I'm feeling very fortunate indeed to have them!
Tomorrow, Sunday, we have another three-hour open-mat session in the afternoon. I want to focus on smoothing out some techniques that I basically understand, but haven't gotten into muscle memory very well yet. Slow, smooth, relaxed, repetition. Breathing is important, I hear, too.
Right now, though, I'm really tired, and looking forward to a hot bath and a good night's rest.
Big ideas seem to come together for me in the morning, perhaps before the rational, detail-oriented part of my brain comes online and takes charge. Earlier this week, when I was uncharacteristically up before sunrise, a larger theme came to me that will help tie my book together. And now this morning, blundering around the kitchen getting my coffee, I realized that two things I've been struggling with are really the same. I am on the verge of publishing my first book, and in a few weeks I have my first kyu exam. In both cases, I've alternately been unconcerned, and a little panicky.
One day soon I will hit the Publish button, and my first book will go live on the Amazon store. And on March 9th, Sensei will call me up in front of the class, and for about 45 minutes I will bring forth everything I've got. No do overs. No excuses. I will wish I might have had more time for editing and rewriting. I will wish I had trained harder, spend more time, focused more clearly… But it will be what it is, and I will have to leave it at that and move on.
I know I still have some time. Feeling rushed and stressed out will not help me. These are just stepping stones on much longer paths — there will be more books, and more exams in the future. No lives are on the line. In the greater scheme of what's important in the world, these are No Big Deal. In one sense this is a sane, adaptive way of looking at things. But I recognize it as a defensive strategy: "It's not that important… I wasn
Feedback (which I know will be constructive, on AikiWeb!) is welcome. I'm pretty happy with how I did, but of course can see lots of things to work on for next time.
I figure now that I have 4 exam videos, they deserve their own playlist. So here it is, starting at 6th kyu (in case you have nothing better to do). LOL http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0F5D81895C5E5A30
My 6th kyu exam has around 9,500 views so far. Every month or two I get a nice comment from someone who's been encouraged in some way by my exam videos (usually a new student who is freaking out about taking their first test, as I was). One of my favorite comments came in a few hours ago, and just made my day:
"You're amazing, Linda-sama. I started train Aikido last week, but before - I had lot of doubts: if I am too old, people are bad, everything will be bad. I'm waiting about two years for my first train. But i taste it, and became addicted of this art. Thank you, for recording. Good luck! (sorry about my english)"
"Your form was fine." Sensei said when he came to discussing my 4th-kyu test. He was giving us each feedback in the post-exam circle of promotion candidates. "Were you nervous?" he asked.
Huh... Nervous? I had felt really well prepared. I hadn't been afraid I would screw up any particular techniques (but of course I did anyway). I knew I was really focused. Intent on giving it my best. I had sort of half-assed my previous test (5th kyu), and had instantly wished I could've done it over - done it right. But there aren't do-overs on tests. This time I was doing my darnedest to nail it.
"Yeah..." I allowed, as best I can recall saying, "not totally freaked out, but I was probably a little nervous."
I was totally freaked out. The weird thing is that I didn't recognize it. Sure, I made a couple of mistakes on jo suburi - the one thing I thought I really had down, and there was that one technique where my back heel came off the ground and I noticed my leg was shaking... I didn't recognize that I was nervous. It's not OK with me to be nervous. Nervous is fearful, uncertain, and weak. I don't get nervous.
What I did recognize was a feeling, one I'd had after my first and only piano recital as a teenager. I had played "Come Sail Away" by Styx. I played it just fine. But when I was done and sat down I had to ask someone how I'd done. It was like I hadn't even been there when I was playing. At the end of my test I'd had the same feeling. I thought I'd done basicall
I wasn't worried about passing, though. I was more interested in doing well. Or at least doing my best.
I did OK. Only one or two brain cramps on techniques, and I didn't shut down during jiyuwaza. A few minor "D'oh!" moments, but nothing horrid.
On the good side, I knew the names of everything, and the basics of how each technique went. Watching the 4th kyu test (the next one I'll have to take) I realized that I know those names and techniques, too, basically. And even a lot of the ones on the 3rd kyu test. I felt reasonably relaxed and present, and was able to breathe and focus pretty well.
On the room-for-improvement side... I really felt like something was missing, like I was "demonstrating how the techniques go" instead of *doing* the techniques. Like kind of half-singing a song to get across what the lyrics are, as opposed to really putting it out there like you mean to be heard. It felt half-hearted, uncommitted, low energy... something like that. When I sat back down in the line afterward, while watching the others, I knew I hadn't done my best, but I didn't know why. I wished I could've had a second chance, to get up there and do it like I had intended to do it. "Darn it. That wasn't how I meant to do that!" Oh well.
An interesting life lesson there... How often do I - do we - start out
My exam for 5th kyu is Saturday morning - tomorrow. When I first started working with my mentor a month ago we began with a sort of diagnostic run-through of the exam. I knew all the technique names, and basically what they were. There was plenty of room for correction and refinement, but I wasn't completely lost. I felt like I was on a pretty good trajectory for being ready by exam day.
Then in mid-January I did a seminar, which was great fun, and a tremendous experience. I loved it, but it was exhausting, and dumped a whole lot of new information into my little 6th-kyu brain.
The next couple of weeks were difficult all around, and left my confidence a bit battered. I couldn't seem to do anything right in class. Friends on Facebook were commenting that my Aikido posts had been negative lately.
I accumulated a dozen or so small injuries and ailments - a jammed thumb, a knee that didn't like to bend, sore shoulders and neck muscles, a stomped foot, assorted bruises and tight muscles, etc. I found myself stiff and guarded. Lingering symptoms from a cold in December returned, and my breathing was getting clogged up during class. One night I must have been dehydrated, and whited out (and sat right back down) when I stood up quickly from seiza.
Last Wednesday I had the worst bout of vertigo since starting Aikido. The world was spinning. I felt seasick and was tipping over and falling into things. Feeling grounded isn't even a possibility in that state. ...More